After Lesotho, Africa's 2014 ends with foiled coup bid in Gambia as Jammeh talks of betrayal

President Jammeh was away in France as overnight battles engulfed the capital Banjul, as memories of Lesotho unrest linger.

THE Gambia’s president Yahya Jammeh has blamed a disgruntled soldier for an attempted coup, speaking of his “anguish” at being betrayed by a friend.

In a statement, Jammeh fingered the former Commanding Officer of the State Guards, Lamin Sanneh in the foiled plot, and said that he would immediately cut short his visit to France to oversee an investigation. 

According to the president, four insurgents were killed and four more captured, although this is yet to be independently verified.

A military officer told news wire AFP that loyalist forces had killed three alleged suspects behind the failed coup bid Tuesday, including the ringleader..

“No Gambian feels the aguish of this heinous plot more deeply than I, against whom Sanneh adds the sin of betraying a friend to the ignominy of high treason,” the statement said.

An official statement read on state radio urged “the general public and all businesses to carry on with their normal activities, as usual.”

Shooting was overnight heard from the presidential palace and a key bridge, fuelling speculation of a military coup.

Sanneh is said to have fled after a one-year stint as head of the state guard, after falling out with Jammeh.

He came to power in a coup in 1994 and has survived several coup attempts. The leadership has accused foreign powers of seeking to destabilise the country by sponsoring coup bids.

The Gambia is a sliver-like country in west Africa surrounded by Senegal but with a western outlet to the Atlantic sea. It is often known as the “smiling coast of Africa” and is a popular tourist destination.

But a weakened economy on the back of delayed rains and the Ebola crisis portends a decline in growth, with the coup bid likely to further hit tourism, the country’s main foreign exchange earner. 

The probe into the coup will likely see Jammeh go back into the trenches as he seeks to weed out perceived collaborators, further shrinking the space

It would be the second coup attempt foiled in Africa this year, after Lesotho’s prime minister Tom Thabane was briefly forced to flee to neighbouring South Africa, after the army surrounded his home and raided police barrack in August.

Thabane eventually returned under heavy South African protection, with the country set to hold early elections.

—This story has been updated to reflect that President Jammeh acknowledged the coup bid in an official statement from Paris.

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